Nyjer Morgan was caught stealing twice in yesterday’s game (although one came on a botched hit-and-run try) and manager Jim Riggleman revealed that he gave Morgan a little pep talk in the dugout following the first failed steal attempt:
I said, “You know what? It seems like they throw the ball right on the button.” He never gets a break. I just wanted him to stay positive and realize the catcher made a great throw. That’s baseball. He was aggressive [and] the catcher made a great throw. When Nyjer’s out there, they’re on their “A game” in terms of stopping him from running.
Just a friendly tip for Riggleman: It’s not that opposing catchers are “on their ‘A game'” when Morgan is running, it’s that Morgan is such a low-percentage base-stealer that he makes catchers look good. Morgan led the league in caught stealing last season and in 2009, getting gunned down 17 times each year. For his career he’s 92-for-134 on the bases, which is a “success” rate of 68.6 percent that qualifies as terrible (for comparison, Carl Crawford has a success rate of 81.9 percent).
Saying catchers step up their game when Morgan runs is like saying pitchers step up their game when Jack Wilson is at the plate or hitters step up their game when Oliver Perez is on the mound. Nyjer Morgan is very fast, but he’s an awful base-stealer and his awful stolen base percentages have far more to do with him than with catchers. The statement “he never gets a break” is only accurate if Riggleman was referring to Morgan’s inability to get a good jump from first base.
Dodgers’ left fielder Andrew Toles crushed his first spring training home run on Saturday afternoon. With the bases loaded and a two-run deficit hanging over their heads in the fourth inning, Toles stepped up to the plate against Oakland right-hander Jesse Hahn and unloaded a grand slam on the second pitch he saw.
Third baseman Justin Turner was quick to follow up with a solo jack of his own, bringing the score to a comfortable 7-4 lead by the end of the fourth. Another three-run outburst in the fifth and an eighth-inning RBI single by Austin Barnes raised the final score to 11-6… which, coincidentally, was the same score the Reds used to defeat the Athletics’ second split-squad lineup on Saturday (albeit with a few more RBI walks than grand slams).
Toles, 24, is approaching his sophomore season with the Dodgers in 2017. He slashed .314/.365/.505 with three home runs and an .870 OPS in his first major league season in 2016 and is expected to platoon with the right-handed Franklin Gutierrez in left field this year.
David Price showed “strength improvements” in his elbow on Saturday, but Red Sox’ manager John Farrell still doesn’t think the left-hander will be ready to throw by the start of the season — or for a few weeks afterward. According to ESPN’s Scott Lauber, the 31-year-old might not be ready to debut until May at the earliest.
Price hasn’t thrown off of a mound this spring after experiencing soreness in his left elbow on March 1. Surgery doesn’t appear to be necessary, but the Red Sox are playing it extra safe with their No. 3 starter in hopes that rest and rehabilitation will return him to full health sometime during the 2017 season. For now, Price has been restricted to short games of catch until he’s cleared to resume a more rigorous throwing program. Via MLB.com’s Ian Browne:
[There were] strength improvements to the point of putting the ball back in his hand a little more consistently,” said manager John Farrell. “Today’s the first step for that. A short game of catch. That’s what he’s going through. Not off a mound but just to get the arm moving with a ball in flight, and he will continue in this phase for a period of time. There’s no set distance and volume yet to the throws.
The lefty is coming off of a lackluster 2016 season, during which he delivered a 3.99 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 230 innings for the Red Sox.